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Top ranked Cerritos cruise into divisional finals for second straight season

CIF-SOUTHERN SECTION DIVISION IV GIRLS TENNIS PLAYOFFS

By Loren Kopff

Two seasons ago, the Cerritos girls tennis team had to endure a long bus ride home from Santa Ynez after a semifinal loss in the California Interscholastic Federation-Southern Section Division IV playoffs. This past Wednesday afternoon, the roles were reversed as the Pirates will be heading back north with their season complete.

The Lady Dons won their first 12 sets and eased to a 13-5 victory over Santa Ynez to advance to the Division IV championship match for the second straight season. Top ranked Cerritos (24-0) will face third ranked and Citrus Belt League champion Redlands this afternoon at the Claremont Club. Redlands tied South Torrance 9-9 in the other semifinal match but won on games 81-74.

Junior Taylor Heath, sophomore Katie Wee and freshman Shirline Wee, the No. 1-3 singles players won all six of their sets as did the No. 1 doubles team of senior Michelle Jen and senior Katrina Tan, the No. 2 pair of seniors Alyssa Le and Christine Troung and the No. 3 duo of juniors Rachel Guadarrama and Michelle Yang. The set that punched the ticket to the finals came when Katie Wee defeated Kat Rocha 6-2, making it 10-0.

“Everyone points to having the Wee sisters now, but when you really look into all of our scores, we’re winning by a margin of almost 16 sets,” said Cerritos head coach Alvin Kim. “Our doubles are really holding their own. There’s really no hole to go through. You have to beat every position. I really want to say it’s maturity and they’re growing up. They have the experience now and they’re ready.”

Heath, the Suburban League runner-up to Shirline Wee, defeated Rocha 6-2 and Tyler Bunderson 6-4, Katie Wee also knocked off Katie Voorhis 6-2 while Shirline Wee had no problems with Voorhis (6-1) and Bunderson (6-0). But there were some tense moments on the doubles side. League runner-ups Le and Troung bounced back from an early hole to beat Paige Lockhart and Morgan Laughlin 6-4 to put Cerritos up 4-0. The first round ended with league champions Jen and Tan rebounding for a 6-4 win over Bree Jensen and Reagan Mroz.

“The first round was pretty gritty,” Kim said. “We had our No. 1 and 2 doubles locked in very tight battles. We won our No. 2 doubles on a late break. We were down 1-4 against their No. 1 and it was just a brilliant effort by our No. 1 team just to win five games in a row. At one point, we were looking at 3-3 in the first round and I think that’s when a lot of the experience kicked in.”

Kim emptied his bench for the third set, replacing Heath with junior Colleen Phong, who had to default due to an injury. Katie Wee was replaced by sophomore Adhithi Raghavan and sophomore Niyati Patel took over for Shirline Wee. In doubles play, sophomore Eugenee Lee and junior Karishma Gokhale went into the No. 1 spot while senior Angela Hugh and junior Toby Tsai filled in for Guadarrama and Yang. The only win in the third round came from Le and Troung who posted a 6-4 victory over Paige Jensen and Eliza Nash.

Cerritos, which was the third ranked team two seasons ago and the second ranked team last season, has been the top ranked team all season long. It has a chance to finish the season undefeated for the first time in school history. Before the playoffs, no opponent had won more than five sets against Cerritos. The Lady Dons had four matches with 14-4 results.

“I tell the girls it’s fun to talk about [our record] but the big difference is we didn’t play Los Alamitos this year,” Kim said. “That was the loss we had last year. The perfect season is really just an illusion. The championship banner would mean everything.”

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